The regional state prosecutor in the Spanish capital Madrid accused football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo of tax fraud.
The Real Madrid and Portugal forward defrauded Spain’s tax office of 14.7 million euros ($16.5 million) in unpaid taxes on Tuesday, the prosecutor said in a statement.
He accused Ronaldo of four accounts of tax fraud from 2011-14, saying he had knowingly used a business structure created in 2010 to allegedly hide his image rights income in Spain.
This involved a “voluntary” failure to comply with his tax obligations in Spain, the statement from the office’s economic crimes section said.
Ronaldo used what it deems a shell company in the Virgin Islands to “create a screen in order to hide his total income from Spain’s Tax Office.”
The prosecutor also said that he “intentionally” did not declare income of 28.4 million euros ($31.8 million) made from the cession of image rights from 2015-20 to another company located in Spain.
Additionally, the prosecutor accused Ronaldo of declaring 11.5 million euros ($12.8 million) earned from 2011-14 in a tax return filed in 2014, when the prosecutor said Ronaldo’s real income during that period was almost 43 million euros ($48 million). It added that Ronaldo falsely claimed the income as coming from real estate, which “greatly” reduced his tax rate.
Ronaldo became a Spanish tax resident in January 2010 and in November 2011 opted to follow the Spanish tax regime that applies to foreigners working in Spain, the statement said.
He should have paid a tax rate of 24 percent in 2011, and 24.75 percent in the three following years, it said.
Ronaldo’s agency had previously said he was up to date on his taxes.
Last month, tax officials said Ronaldo adjusted his tax declarations and paid an extra 6 million euros ($6.7 million) in 2014.
Real Madrid declined to comment.
A four-time Ballon d’Or winner, the 32-year-old Ronaldo is Europe’s leading football player. He has led Madrid to back-to-back Champions League titles and its first Spanish league in five seasons, and helped Portugal to win last year’s European Championship.
Ronaldo, who led Real Madrid to their 12th European Cup earlier this month, is the latest in a long line of football players in Spain – among them Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Neymar – who have been caught up in cases over tax or transfers.
On Tuesday, the state prosecutor cited the verdict against Messi as precedent for the case against Ronaldo.
In May, Spain’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Messi and stood by a Catalan regional court’s 21-month prison sentence for defrauding authorities of 4.1 million euros on image rights. He is unlikely to go to prison as under Spanish law sentences under two years can be served under probation.
Spain’s High Court in May cleared Neymar of fraud but he still faces a corruption trial in Spain in connection with the value of his 2013 transfer from Santos to Barcelona. He has denied wrongdoing.
Between 2005 and 2010, foreign players in Spain were protected under the so-called “Beckham law” allowing them to curb their taxes. But as the financial crisis bit deeper, that exemption was lifted, paving the way for the cases.